A Royal Hat Designer Breaks Down the Fancy Hats

We all know that the British public has a special link with hats. Caps often take center stage at special occasions,such as weddings, funerals or even at horse races in England, where feathery fascinators and sizeable statement pieces are favored over traditional trilbies or wide-brimmed beret.

It’s no coincidence that the Queen is known to finish off an outfit with a perfectly-matching hat. Over the past 50 years, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is estimated to have worn about 5,000 different hats. The Queen even has her own bespoke designer milliner to see to her every headpiece need.

why do the British love their hats? And is there specific head-wear and hat-wearing etiquette we expect at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding in Windsor on May 19? TIME put various hat-related questions to leading British luxury milliner Vivien Sheriff, who has famously worked with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as well as other notable royals and heads of states.Hats have unique meanings for the British, especially to wear hats to weddings. In Europe and North America, people now tend to wear far more casual clothes. The way the British prepare for weddings — the amount of preparation that goes in and the elegance. It is a truly unique concept. Therefore, a lot of people will seize the opportunity to finish off their outfits with a hat or a headpiece.

People are so interested in seeing what the beautiful young royals are wearing and obviously what her Majesty wears as well — she wears such beautiful colors. It does definitely filter down to what the masses wear.

I think there will be a lot of tilted, disc shaped hats as they’re very easy to wear. And then more elaborate headpieces like berets, particularly the blocked beret shape which lots of the royal family wear. Also feathers and lots of color; because of the time of year, people won’t be scared of wearing fun, beautiful colors. There will of course be lovely traditional hat too, with big brims. But I think there will mainly be lots of disc shapes.

We do a lot of hats for mothers of the bride. The mother of the bride has to think about how her hat will look in photos. Firstly, she doesn’t want a shadow to be cast on her face. Secondly, she wants the radiance of her smile to be seen in photographs and of course when she’s greeting her guests — when you haven’t seen people for a long time you really want to seize that moment so there’s nothing worse than wearing something too big and feeling hidden.

We must not forget that a lot of people aren’t used to wearing hats, so we have to make sure that the pieces we are designing are comfortable, suit people and are not difficult to work out how to wear.

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